I decided to split my trip to Africa into multiple parts. Part 1 is here. This is part 2, a little bit of information about Djibouti, Africa. This was the most mentally challenging time I have had since leaving the United States, and probably since my mom passed away in 2007. That being said, I did have an interesting time and spent a lot of time reflecting on things.
Djibouti is located on the horn of Africa and is bordered by Somalia and Ethiopia. If you watched the movie Captain Phillips, this is the area where it all went down. I had never heard of the country until I applied for a job in November 2012, and definitely did not know what to expect upon my arrival.
What is Djibouti? (from nationsonline.org)
Djibouti is a country located in the Horn of Africa and has a total area of 8,958 square miles. The country was a French Territory until 1977 when the Djiboutian people voted for independence from France. The island is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The Red Sea and Gulf of Eden make up the eastern border. Out of the 818,000 people who live in Djibouti, 94% follow Islam and 6% are Christian. The two official languages are Arabic and French, and the natural resources include gold, clay, granite, marble, minerals, and petroleum. The main industries are banking, insurance, transportation, tourism, construction, agriculture processing, and salt. Their main export partners are Somalia, Yemen, and Ethiopia, and their import partners are Saudi Arabia, India, Ethiopia, China, France, and United States. The currency is the Djiboutian Franc 1 USD = 177.721 DJF.
KHAT (pronounced COT)
Khat is a plant that is chewed like tobacco. EVERYONE chews it. Even those who say they don’t chew it are lying because the use of khat turns your teeth a nasty brown color. So when these people with nasty brown teeth say they aren’t chewing khat…they’re chewing khat. The president of Djibouti even has his own private field of Khat that is for his personal use.
Khat is chewed like tobacco, with an effect something like acid I guess. All natural, it is grown in Ethiopia and flown into Djibouti every day at approximately 2 pm. That is about the time the whole country shuts down for two hours so everyone can chew their Khat. Khat is best fresh and will not last overnight. There are street vendors everywhere selling khat, and everyone standing on the streets chewing the stuff. There are three varieties, low (usually the left over khat from the day before), medium, and high. Each one costs a little bit more than the other.
Navy in Africa
Camp Lemonnier (LEMON-YAY) information based mostly from a Washington Post article dated Oct 25, 2012.
Camp Lemonnier was a former French Foreign Legion and Djibouti Armed Forces base before the US took over in 2002. It is the headquarters for the US African Command (AFRICOM) where the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) is based as well. There are few permanent structures on base, and most everyone resides in containerized living units (CLU) or 16 man tents. The camp is nearly 500 acres wide, and there are approximately 3,200 U.S. troops, civilians, and contractors assigned to the base. The main goal of the base is to focus on anti terrorism efforts in Africa. The article is pretty detailed and has more information.
The base is next to the Djibouti International Airport which the US shares with the civilian planes as well as other militarys including the Japanese, French, Italian, and others. Reading the article above lists much of the job that is done by the military at CTJF-HOA.
To save everyone from totally being bored, I kept this one just to the backgrouind information. Shortly I will post what I DID in Djibouti and such.
Thanks for reading!